Top Indian virologist Shahid Jameel has warned of minor mutations in some variants of COVID-19 samples that he said should be studied more closely.
Jameel, who is also the chair of the scientific advisory group Indian SARS-CoV-2 Genetics (INSACOG), told Reuters on Sunday that "we [INSACOG scientists] are seeing some mutations coming up in some samples that could possibly evade immune responses".
The virologist declined to elaborate on whether the mutations were detected in the Indian variant or any other strain of the coronavirus.
He explained that "unless you culture those viruses and test them in the lab, you can't say for sure" as far as consequences are concerned.
"At this point, there is no reason to believe that they are expanding or if they can be dangerous, but we flagged it so that we keep our eye on the ball", Jameel stressed.
The remarks come as INSACOG tries to comprehend what is behind the current significant surge in COVID-19 cases in India, and whether B.1.617, a variant first detected in the country, might be a cause.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) so far has refused to declare the Indian strain a "variant of concern", but suggested the mutation had a higher growth rate than others circulating in India.
The increasing coronavirus infections in India have already disrupted the health system in many areas of the nation, including the capital New Delhi, which was hit by shortages of medical oxygen and hospital beds.
The country's Health Ministry said on Saturday the overall number of those who've tested positive for the coronavirus since the onset of the pandemic had reached 19,164,969. According to the ministry, the coronavirus death toll soared by 3,523 to 211,853 people in the past 24 hours.
Russia's Ambassador to India Nikolay Kudashev expressed confidence that the delivery of Sputnik V, one of the most effective COVID vaccines in the world at present, would help the South Asian country to "mitigate the deadly second wave and save lives".